Observing the Poya Days
The average Sri Lanka Buddhist visits the pansala (temple) four times a month on poya days, which equate to the phases of the moon. The full-moon day is most important and a monthly national holiday in the Buddhist tradition of this island nation — a day of reverence for the faithful and a relaxing day away from work for those of other faiths. A tray of flowers is offered at each of the three places of worship, small oil lamps are lit (to represent wisdom and enlightenment), and incense is burned (to symbolize purity).
Poya day ceremonies are conducted from dawn until dusk at all temples. This includes Dharma sermons, meditation classes, pujas (offerings), administration of the precepts, and pirit-chanting of protective suttas (discourses).
Merit-making (punya karma) is considered to be the cornerstone of lay Buddhism. By following the Dharma and the precepts, by striving for compassion, equanimity and wisdom, and by performing meritorious deeds — such as dana (almsgiving), pilgrimage and worship, and paying homage to elders — one can assure oneself a more advanced rebirth on the spiritual ladder toward nibbana.